How did you hear about buildings and wards closing? Did you hear through
other employees? Was it posted someplace?
P-We had management
meetings every week where we discussed topics such as closings and
other important issues. It was also posted in the DSH newsletter "News
on the Hill" every department had to contribute to the paper.
They kept a lot of information in regards to buildings closing quiet.
They were afraid of losing employees they couldn't afford to lose
at the time. They talked about closing the hospital back when I first
started in 1968 so no one lent much credence to it because the rumors
floated around for years and years. Every time there was a change
politically it would swing a different way. One governor wanted it
open and one didn't and when Michael Dukakis was in office, he was
all for the place. When they started to close some of the units and
putting patients out in the street, it was then we knew it was real
and the hospital was closing.
J-What was that like
seeing patients forced out?
P-I didn't agree with
it and even today I don't agree with it. They put out some patients
that didn't belong out with very little support and they weren't prepared
to go out. I remember seeing patients sleeping in Salem Square on
the benches, Lawrence was inundated, Lynn and the police didn't know
what to do with them. They're mental health patients, what were the
police to do? They just dumped them out on the street to get the numbers
down because of politics. The hospital was told to reduce the numbers
because of the budget and they did.
J-Why was main administration
steeple/tower removed in 1970?
P-It was too expensive
to repair. It was deteriorating a little bit and it suffered some
water damage. The slate shingles were falling off so rather than repair
it, it was easier to just take it down. The hospital hired an outside
contractor for that job. They used to hire outside contractors often
so they didn't take the maintenance personnel away from their work.
Some jobs would be tied up for months. We capped the top of the tower
and that's where maintenance put our radio antennas for our 2-way
radios. Eventually they moved everything onto the water tower.
What happened to the tower after they removed it?
P-They put behind the
Medical Building (Bonner) for a while and then it went to the dump.
I know the weathervane at the top of the tower was still around someplace
in the hospital. I believe it was over in the old blacksmith's shop.
J- Were there any buildings
that were off-limits to you?
P- No. I could go anywhere.
Maintenance personnel could go anywhere. Towards the later years,
when the 6th floor of the Medical Building (Bonner) was turned into
the DYS unit, I had to call in advance to go up there. I had the key
to get in but I had to call first. They had patients that were a danger.
There were young agile kids and they didn't want us getting hurt and
they didn't want them escaping. But other than that, there was nothing
off-limits to me. I can honestly say I've been everywhere that you
could possibly go in that hospital. I was in the tunnels, sub-tunnels,
wards, the turrets, and even inside the water tower.
Why did you have to get inside the water tower?
P- When I was a handyman
, Mike G and myself had to get inside and clean it. The water up there
is chlorinated and we also added chlorine to the water ourselves right
on the grounds. That was one of my jobs on the weekends was to add
bleach to the water. That process was done in the basement of the
maintenance cottage. So they had these inspectors come in run tests
and they said they water tower needed to be cleaned. Mike and I weren't
happy about it but we were assigned to do it. There's a hatch at the
top and we got in and cleaned it. I also had to turbine the boilers
in the power house. I had to climb inside the boilers which was a
nasty, nasty job. It was over 100 degrees inside with them turned
off. They couldn't shut them all off but of course they'd shut the
one off you had to work on. I'd crawl inside through this small door
with a wire brush but you couldn't spend more than 20 minutes inside
because it was so damn hot. You'd have to scrub all the tubes inside
the boiler but you could only punch 5 or 6 tubes at a time before
you'd have to get the hell out because you couldn't breathe. It was
a horrible job and we'd try to avoid it at all cost